Former Afghan President Rabbani killed

Kabul: Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan President who headed a government peace council set up to facilitate contacts with Taliban insurgents, was assassinated by a suicide bomber concealing explosives in his turban, officials said.

Four of Rabbani’s bodyguards also died and a key presidential adviser was wounded.

President Hamid Karzai cut short a visit to the US over the attack, which dealt a harsh blow to peace efforts after a decade of war.

The turban bomber entered Rabbani’s house in the capital Kabul on Tuesday evening and blew himself up inside, said Mohammad Zahir, the chief of criminal investigation for the Kabul police.

Rabbani headed the country’s High Peace Council, which was set up by the Afghan government to work toward a political solution to the decade-long war. However, it had made little headway since it was formed a year ago.

Rabbani was president of the Afghan government that preceded the Taliban rule. After he was driven from Kabul in 1996, he became the nominal head of the Northern Alliance, mostly minority Tajiks and Uzbeks, who swept to power in Kabul after the Taliban’s fall. Rabbani is an ethnic Tajik.

His killing dampens hopes of starting peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents and will also hamper efforts to keep regional and ethnic rivalries, which feed the insurgency, in check.

As one of the wise old man of Afghan politics and the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Rabanni’s role in the attempts to reach out to the Taliban and seeking a political deal with them, with US blessing, will be hard to replicate in the near future.